Frieze Projects: Not Just Business as Usual
Amanda Ryan

Since its inception in 2003, Frieze Art Fair has set itself apart as the premier fair for contemporary art through its carefully selected roster of galleries and its Frieze Projects commissions. Each year, Frieze selects several artists to create a project that will engage viewers and activate the space surrounding the fair. Often critical or contrary to the commercial art fair model, the choice of projects reflects the Frieze Foundation’s desire to go beyond business as usual.

Last year during London’s Frieze Art Fair, Christian Jankowski’s commission gained international attention for its sharp and witty critique of commodity culture. Jankowski employed a commercial boat dealer to sell a luxury yacht from a conventional gallery booth in the fair. Visitors were invited to learn about the boat, enter the interior, and purchase it as both a yacht and a Christian Jankowski artwork.

Christian Jankowski, The Finest Art on Water (installation view), 2011. Courtesy of Frieze Projects.

The inaugural Frieze New York fair invited eight artists to participate, in addition to three sound-based projects and a sculpture garden curated by CCS Bard founder Tom Eccles. John Ahearn will recreate his 1979 exhibition South Bronx Hall of Fame in celebration of the alternative art spaces that are vital to fostering an artistic community. In the original exhibition at the now closed Fashion Moda space, Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres made plaster casts of residents of the surrounding South Bronx neighborhood, immortalizing the faces of the community. The process was done in the front window of the space and visible to the sidewalk, creating a de facto performance for passersby.

Ahearn and Torres will be making casts again at Frieze alongside original casts from the 1979 exhibition; however this time around, the subjects must commission their portraits for a fee. This difference highlights the new context, the commodity-based art world of the fair rather than the community-based environment in which it was originally staged.

Artist and educator Tim Rollins, who is a long-time activist and works with at-risk teens in the Bronx, will bring his brand of art education to the fair. Rollins and his students, the Kids of Survival (K.O.S.), will run an open workshop for children and teens to create a large collaborative painting inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Felix Mendelssohn’s score of the same name. Rollin’s project is not flashy or spectacular, as many have come to expect from an art fair, but it serves to bring attention to his work in the Bronx and the work that still needs to be done, as well as fostering a collaborative spirit, creativity, and an appreciation of the arts from a young age.